Wages, rent… and why an IT plan must be part of your business plan. DAVID MARKUS
By David Markus
It would seem the business world has not yet caught up with the fact that IT is the third fixed expense in business after wages and rent. Yet very few business plans have a component called “IT plan”.
Planning to have each department in your business up-to-date with technology is an ongoing process of aligning your purpose and solutions. Clearly the IT plan should be part of your business plan and should support this with the technologies selected.
An IT plan:
- Should be part of your business plan.
- Indicates how technology supports your future direction.
- Explores emerging technology.
- Includes security considerations.
- Examines best-of-breed for your industry.
- Must include a budget if anything is to work.
Your IT plan should boil down to “How will technology support our future?” This will determine whether IT will manage to make a difference. Once you know where you are going, you can select the right solutions to get there.
Make sure your solutions are selected to support the business you are running today to ensure you remain competitive and in business for the next few years. Forward planning at a central level in any business is essential to reduce the number of different applications that need to be integrated later. One only needs to look at Telstra to see the effects of different departments referring to different customer records.
Where to start
Start by looking at the technologies that could help evolve and change the future of your business. What technologies will it be for you? You need to consider:
- Document management.
- Unified communications.
- E-mail marketing.
- Search engine optimisation.
Choosing the right products
Small business often lacks the analytic skills to know which solutions are right for them. This is why I recommend asking the question; what is the best-of-breed solution for this type of problem?
A great idea is to look at the products used by large multinational companies and then see what has been scaled down to do the same for your small business.
Once you have found the best-of-breed practise, you can use comparisons to determine the value and match of lesser products. But remember, you may find it is very hard to justify the small cost savings offered by lesser products.
No business plan is complete without a risk analysis and so we must touch on both security and disaster recovery. While there are plenty of solutions to security threats and network intrusions, it is only a matter of time before new threats emerge, so it essential that we plan to maintain security.
Also make sure you consider aspects of privacy and protection from fraud.
To get the lowest total cost of ownership you need to plan your spending with the big picture in mind. Key areas of expenditure include; consulting, software, hardware, installation and maintenance/helpdesk services.
With each part of your IT plan supporting your business, you can now structure your finances to ensure manageability and lowest total cost of ownership
The next big IT issue
When we are looking at an IT plan for the years ahead, we also need to contemplate the arising issues in the business world. By far the biggest issue facing the human race in the next 50 years is global warming.
When we are planning expansion or replacement of our existing IT equipment we need to be guiding our companies to make better choices, with lower power consumption and greener manufacturing methodologies. We need to look at recycling old equipment and reducing landfill created by the short life cycles of our equipment.
Trends in our industry that will assist with this reduction of impact include hosted servers and hosted software. This is reducing the need for under utilised on-site equipment. This, like many green initiatives, is using smarter technology to reduce impact but also reduce the total cost of ownership.
David Markus is the founder of Melbourne’s IT services company Combo. His focus is on big picture thinking to create value in IT systems for the SME sector.